FARGO REVIEW: Episode 9, ‘A Fox, A Rabbit, and A Cabbage’

Agents Pepper (Jordan Peele) and Budge (Keegan-Michael Key) are part of the late season conclusion of "Fargo."

Agents Pepper (Jordan Peele) and Budge (Keegan-Michael Key) are part of the late season conclusion of “Fargo.”

The FX series “Fargo,” inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film, is based in northern Minnesota. As northern Minnesota’s leading pop culture, news, entertainment, iron mining and invasive species blog, MinnesotaBrown is here to review the show through Minnesota eyes. Now, to this week’s episode:

Last week, “Fargo” jumped a year into the future, bringing us to the crux of the unraveling capers and inevitable conflicts. This week, the dark force of Malvo returns to Bemidji to tie up loose ends; and we realize that everyone is back together again; we can’t avoid next week’s conclusion any longer.

Per usual, I’ll be reviewing “Fargo” with my special Minnesota rating system, pegging out at “Oh, ya!” and running down past “Pretty Good,” “Could be worse,” and the midwestern mark of shame: “Interesting.”

“Fargo” Episode 9, “A Fox, A Rabbit, and A Cabbage,” opens on some kind of of gaping maw, a human tongue that at first glance looks like the stomach of a lot of guys you see in the YMCA locker room. As we realize it’s a mouth, the shot pans further and further back to reveal that, after the time jump, Lorne Malvo is a friendly Kansas City dentist all of a sudden. The effect is chilling (for whom do we irrationally fear the most? The dentist). Oh, ya!

ASIDE: the patient sitting in Malvo’s chair was the same actor who played the bumbling cop Davis on the brilliant Canadian TV comedy “Corner Gas.” His name? LORNE Cardinal. If you have never seen Corner Gas, it’s arguably one of the best TV comedies of the 2000s. It has all the upper midwestern accents, small town oddity and dark whimsy of “Fargo,” just none of the murders and relatively little of the evil. They’re making a movie! Oh, ya!

Here’s what the first few minutes of the show are all about. It could get complicated. I could geek out over Stephen Root. (Stephen Root!) But basically the first segment of the show tells us that Malvo is the kind of guy who can set up a long con over six months, including pretending to be a dentist, winning over a beautiful fiancee and becoming the best friend a fellow dentist ever had, all so he could get closer to a kill target worth $100,000. And he’s also the kind of guy who would execute all of those people the moment there was a hint of trouble and walk away from the whole thing. We have known that Malvo was evil. But this episode clarifies that he is the most evil person there ever was. Oh, ya!

One more aside: Stephen Root’s character pushes some Finnish hard liquor on Malvo (which Malvo takes but does not drink, interestingly). In doing so he describes the Finns as “sex-craved alcoholics.” Northern Minnesota is home to a large population of Finnish immigrants, included many of my ancestors. To this I say: True dat.

It was Lester’s confrontation of Malvo in the Las Vegas hotel bar that provoked his evil rampage, and the result was Malvo going on the hunt for Lester. So why did Lester even bother tapping Malvo on the shoulder? Martin Freeman does a nice job showing Lester’s expression when Malvo claims not to know him. He’s hurt. This man changed Lester’s life completely, and now he wants to be recognized. It is pride, which leads the procession of the seven deadly sins.

So, Lester escapes Malvo and, covered in blood, runs upstairs to convince his wife and former secretary Linda to fly home immediately. They’re going to stop off to get plane tickets and passports and take off again for Mexico. The episode allows numerous opportunities for Susan Park to pronounced “Acapulco” in the full Minnesota accent. Pretty good.

Now we’re back in Fargo and see FBI agents Budge and Pepper (Key and Peele) still passing time in the records department. A request for files on the case that landed them in this purgatory spurs them into action. They’re going to some place called Bemdiji to meet some cop named Solverson (whom they assume is a guy).

“A Fox, A Rabbit, A Cabbage” is constantly bringing us to a state of terror over what might happen to the main characters in “Fargo.” One of the biggest examples is when Malvo strolls into Molly’s dad’s cafe for a little chat with the ex-state patrolman. In reminding us of “Sioux Falls” again, the dark episode that caused him to retire from law enforcement, Molly’s dad says the evil perpetrated there was performed as though done by an animal, except “animals only kill for food.” This was something else. Malvo seems to know what he’s talking about, and for all the wrong reasons. Impressively, and very cop-like, Molly’s pa avoids giving Malvo the answers he was looking for and does so without getting killed. But — we will see — this action does not prevent the inevitability of Malvo’s evil from taking place. (Also, Molly’s dad says “prolly” instead of “probably” — very accurate dialect choice). Oh, ya!

As we learn more about Malvo’s true evil, we also see Gus, his daughter and pregnant Molly as a truly happy and loving family. The contrast couldn’t be clearer. Gus, in describing his mail route: “Can’t complain. Takes me out by the lake. A good drive.” This is Minnesotan for “My life is perfect just the way it is.” Oh, ya!

We see Lester scheming to get out of town. Malvo has disarmed him. All the bravado he spent the year developing is gone. He’s prey again, and thinking in short darting, paranoid bursts. But uh-oh, people in Las Vegas knew he was talking to Malvo and those murder victims. They asked Bemidji PD to get a statement. Who’s on her way? Molly. Her resulting interrogation again show that Lester has a hard time lying to Molly, but does so with total abandon. And when the going gets tough, Lester’s sweet wife Linda joins in to save him with a lie of her own. She, too, wants to protect her version of a perfect life. But that’s not possible. Sad, but Oh, ya!

Did you catch Malvo tell Molly’s dad that he hasn’t had apple pie that good since “the garden of Eden.” This would support the theory that Malvo is the devil, or someone who thinks he’s the devil. He’s certainly got unlimited capacity for evil and constant, perfect execution of meticulous plans — many of which involve other people becoming afraid, jealous, greedy or lustful and doing evil for him. Did you catch how he quickly made two small children afraid of their house for the rest of their lives for no good reason? Evil breeds fear.

All Budge and Pepper accomplish in this episode is to finally give recognition to Molly’s good police work, which had been ignored by Chief Bill, Duluth PD and the feds last year. Now Molly has allies and credibility, and that means the showdown with Malvo is coming. Oh, ya!

Does Lester get away, though? Malvo is fixated on making him pay — ostensibly for messing up his long con, but really just because hunting people like Lester is what he does. He can’t find Lester’s new house, but he can find Lester’s new insurance office. Lester suspects he’s in there and does one of the most evil things he’s done since he killed his first wife with a hammer. He sends his new wife, wearing his jacket, into the office to her certain doom. It is utterly heartbreaking. And the die is cast for next week’s bloody conclusion. Episode: Oh, ya!

A thought to consider as we approach the end of this run of “Fargo”: The show’s executive producer Noah Hawley says that a second season is possible, but that “Fargo” Season Two would involve new characters and a whole new plot — one that, like this one, could call back to the movie or the show’s first season selectively.

Of course, knowing that this story will be resolved in just one season (NEXT WEEK!) means we go into a bloody finale knowing that no character is safe. We are all in peril. This psychological element is what makes “Fargo” this year’s best show.

###

Aaron J. Brown is a northern Minnesota author and radio producer. He wrote “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range,” an earnest, humorous look at the people, history and culture of the unique rural-industrial landscape of northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He is the producer, writer and host of the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio, an ultra-local traveling comedy and music variety show. A columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune, his work also appears regularly in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio and the Daily Yonder.

###

Finale
Episode 9

Episode 8
Episode 7

Episode 6
Episode 5
Episode 4
Episode 3
Episode 2
Episode 1

See the “Fargo” page

Comments

  1. MattNOVA says:

    This episode was a real testament to Noah Hawley’s brilliance. He kept me on the edge of my seat the entire episode. I thought it was every bit as compelling — in terms of pure nail-biting — as the best episodes of shows like Breaking Bad and The Shield. To be sure, there’s a slightly cartoonish aspect to Fargo that will always prevent it from having maximum emotional impact, at least for me. Even if Molly, Gus, Greta and Molly’s dad were all to die in the finale, I don’t think it would hit me quite as hard as, say, the murder-suicide in The Shield’s “Family Meeting,” which took my breath away and kept me up until the wee hours, feeling distressed. But boy, Hawley does know how to create tension.

    “Evil breeds fear.” And fear breeds evil, which seems to be what Malvo is really all about. He’s in it for the suffering, the corruption, the things he can get people to do. I’m sure he derives more pleasure listening to the tapes of the lives he’s ruined than he ever did from spending time with his beautiful blonde fiance with the wandering thumb. I’ve been resisting the claims that Malvo is some sort of supernatural force, and I still don’t really believe it. But the evidence is certainly there if you want to read things that way, and if it turns out that Malvo Satan, Loki, or whoever, I won’t be surprised. (I will, however, be really annoyed if this season ends with “Sympathy for the Devil” playing over the credits. That’d be way too cliched.)

    All that said, I have a potential “Interesting” for you. Unless things are very different in northern Minnesota, it’d be a rare hunter who’d have a great big leg hold trap in his hunting gear, no? (Can we all agree that that thing is Chekov’s trap? There’s no way it doesn’t make an appearance in the finale, right?) Trapping and hunting are not the same thing. I trapped muskrat and mink to make a little money in junior high school, but I was a bit of an odd kid. I have a real hard time picturing Chaz as a trapper.

  2. Mr Melby says:

    I’ve been thinking recently about writing something about a character that is Satan. Not the usual: fire, brimstone, hooved feet, pointy ears usual nonsense, but someone who is Satan come down to human form. My Satan, I was planning, is someone who sows fear, uncertainty, paranoia; my Satan convinces people to do things that hurt, upset, frighten, divide, discourage and degrade people. My Satan says and does things that make people miserable; he sets people up and pits them against each other; he disrupts human relations and makes people’s thoughts and lives more miserable. Seems to me that Fargo’s creators got ahead of me on this one. Take away all the killing, focus on the satanic things Malvo has done (get the boy to urinate in his mother’s car, make the Jewish guy with the truck think that people around him might resent his being Jewish, scare the little children with stories about wailing from the basement, and the like). This could be a modern day incarnation of Satan.

    The idea that the creator’s of Fargo figured this out before I did was hammered home, to me, when Malvo chose the apple pie, and it was doubly hammered by his comment that he hadn’t eaten such good apple pie since the Garden of Eden.

  3. MattNOVA says:

    Well, it isn’t original to the Fargo folks. Remember “Needful Things”? But yes, it’s certainly plausible that Fargo is on the same track.

  4. Pegasus says:

    Lorne Greene IS Commander Adama . I fed cookies to the Range Regional Airport bear yesterday .

  5. bashman says:

    A local radio show (KUAR 89.1, 7pm Sat) starts off each week with the yodeling beginning of Fargo episode 9. What are the credits for this “song”?

  6. anyone else find it weird that this super-slick hitman could be confounded by a guy moving house within the same small town?

  7. Chris T says:

    It’s SUSAN Park, not SANDRA Park. Please correct this please, as the actress plays a recurring character.

  8. Fixed! A dumb error on my park. I was going off my memory of the credits, which is hazy at best. Thanks for pointing it out!

  9. Leo_The_Lip says:

    Thank you for all these columns, I greatly enjoy them.
    I’d like to add one small non-Minnesota detail I’ve never seen mentioned by any commentator. As someone who has several times eaten in the Ponderosa Restaurant where the Beltway Sniper killed one of his victims, I’ll always remember that evil man’s last name is Malvo. So Lorne (“Like on Bonanza” or Ponderosa) Malvo. At least that sure sounds like the genesis of the name.

  10. MattNOVA says:

    Leo,

    I’ve seen that theory put forward elsewhere. I’ll respond to you as I did in that case: Lee Boyd Malvo was very far from an evil genius or mastermind. He was, at the time of the “sniper” attacks around D.C., a disaffected 17-year-old who was following the lead of a much older man. While I definitely don’t excuse Lee Boyd Malvo for his part in those horrible crimes (I live in northern Virginia and remember them well), I think it’s fair to say that John Allen Muhammad was the manipulator and mastermind of that pair. If either of them was anything like Lorne Malvo, my vote would have to go to Muhammad.

Speak Your Mind

*